MONETA, Va. (WFXR) – With an increasing number of reported lung illnesses and deaths regarding e-cigarette use or “vaping”, one vape shop owner says he’s worried about what the future may bring for his business.
“A lot of vapers switch away from tobacco, to get away from that taste, and that’s why they use flavored products. It really does help vapors keep away from smoking combustible tobacco and it’s not fair to them to take away something that they choose to use,” says Justin Jacobson, owner of Dr. Fogsmith’s Vaporium.
Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting 530 confirmed or probable cases of lung illness from 38 states and 1 U.S. territory. So far, seven deaths have been confirmed in California, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, and Oregon.
While there have been no deaths in Virginia, the Virginia Department of Health (VHD) has confirmed 16 cases of severe lung illness associated with e-cigarette use as of Sept. 19, 2019. Currently, there are also seven probable cases in Virginia. Of these 23 total cases, the patients have ranged in age from 18 to 38, with 74% of the patients being men.
Jacobson, who purchased the vape shop two years ago, says he enjoys getting to know his community and helping longtime smokers switch from smoking tobacco cigarettes to e-flavored liquid products.
As for lawmakers and state officials blaming stores for the increase of teens vaping, Jacobson says vaping shops like his aren’t to blame, especially in Virginia were people 21 years old and younger are not allowed to purchase or own a vaping product.
“We card everybody every day. If you look under 30, if you come into my shop, I’m gonna card you. And everybody knows, if you don’t have your I.D., you’re not getting anything,” says Jacobson.
New York and Michigan have recently become the first two states to ban sales of flavored e-cigarettes. Jacobson says flavored e-liquids make up roughly 90% of his sales, so he couldn’t even imagine how he would manage his local business. He’s not only worried about vape shop owners but adult vapers in general.
“I don’t know how they’re going to do it. I can tell you, that everyone should expect lawsuits. It’s not fair to them, it’s not fair to the vape shop owners,” says Jacobson.
With ongoing investigations of reported illnesses from e-cigarette use, the Virginia Health Department is recommending people to stay away from using any e-cigarette products. The list includes:
People who use e-cigarette products should…
- Monitor themselves for symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, fever) and promptly seek medical attention or call a poison control center at 1-800-222-1222 if symptoms develop.
- Avoid buying these products off the street and should not modify e-cigarette products or add any substances that are not intended by the manufacturer.
- E-cigarette products should never be used by youth, young adults, pregnant women, or adults who do not currently use tobacco products. In addition to other potentially harmful chemicals, most e-cigarettes contain nicotine. Nicotine is highly addictive and can harm brain development, which continues into the early to mid-20s.
- Smokers who are attempting to quit should use evidence-based treatments, including counseling and FDA-approved medications, rather than e-cigarettes. If assistance is needed to quit tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, contact a healthcare provider. Free cessation counseling may be obtained by contacting the VDH quitline at 1-800-QUIT NOW (1-800-784-8669) or QuitNow.net/Virginia.
Jacobson says it’s disheartening to know that states are creating bans on vaping use, something that has yet to be fully researched. Nonetheless, he’s ready to fight.
“We vape, we vote, and we’re 20 million [vapers] strong,” says Jacobson.